The journey of an upcoming documentary about Argentina’s abortion rights debate started with an exorcist based in Buenos Aires Province.
After journalist Andrew Gold filmed a segment for the BBC about a local bishop that performs exorcisms, he decided he wanted to dive deeper into the Argentina’s more Catholic, traditionalist side.
As the debate over legalised abortion bubbled into the top national issue last year, the formerly Buenos Aires-based journalist found the perfect avenue to explore a cultural division striking at the heart of Argentine society.
“There’s nothing that interests me more than being in a room with somebody with such different views from me,” Gold told the Times in an interview. “I think those [anti-abortion] people feel they’re being pushed to the side by modern young activists.”
After recruiting the help of fellow Brit and television producer Lucy D’Cruz, the pair set out to chronicle the country’s abortion debate from an openly pro-choice point of view. The result is their film, My Body, Their Choice, but the duo are seeking assistance in order to finish the documentary.
From after-school rides with anti-abortion activist Mariana Rodríguez Varela, to going undercover in an abortion clinic and the late evening of last August’s monumental vote to reject legal abortion, the filmmakers now hope to raise enough money via crowdfunding site Indiegogo for the last production touches.
“I think it’s a really important topic especially at this moment,” D’Cruz said of the film. “In the US they’re trying to change the law to criminalise it again. There’s various different things around the world that have come to light since we worked on this.”
‘Loca del bebito’
The film’s centrepiece is Mariana Rodríguez Varela, known to many as the “Loca del bebito,” or “Crazy Baby Lady.”
Varela, a high-profile militant anti-abortion activist, even welcomes the film crew into her home and invites Gold on the school-run with two of her sons.
“We did try to treat her as a human being,” Gold said. “We all have an aunt, uncle or grandparent with views we totally oppose, but we still like them and still get on with them.”
Yet Gold and Varela have numerous tense exchanges through the film, with the documentarian repeatedly challenging her anti-abortion views.
“This is not a person?” Varela asks Gold in once scene, holding up a small plastic foetus that has become the signature of her cause.
“No,” Gold remarks.
“What is it?” she says.
“That is a plastic representation of a foetus.”
Gold and D’Cruz also confronted Varela about her familial history. Her father, Alberto Rodriguez Varela, served as justice minister for the last military dictatorship of the 1970s and 1980s.
“It is a little bit hypocritical for the daughter of someone was so involved in that government, which is known across the world for disappearing babies to be saying all this stuff about pro-life to everyone,” Gold argued.
“The fact that she does defend him quite ably, it is pretty hypocritical,” D’Cruz said. “How can you speak so lovingly and supportive of your father when he’s been heavily involved in that?”
Despite his political differences with Varela, Gold said he managed to become close to the anti-abortion activist.
“I felt like a betrayed her a little bit,” he reflected. “But I also don’t know what else I could have done because I find her views very dangerous unfortunately.”
The documentarians dive into other corners of the abortion debate. Using a hidden camera, they schedule an appointment with a clinic that alleges to help women seeking abortions. Upon arriving, the duo find the subtle nudge of a child playing in the waiting room. During the appointment, the staff read to them questionable ‘facts’ about abortion, such as increased risk of cancer, depression and the inability to get pregnant again.
“Even not being someone who really wanted to get an abortion, it was quite nerve-racking being shut away in there,” D’Cruz said of the tucked away clinic in a large apartment building in Microcentro. “They just obviously bring people under false pretences. They think they’re going there to be helped, as a way out and to get there abortion there.”
The documentary’s crescendo comes during the August abortion vote, when thousands of activists went out into the rain and descended on Congreso.
“It was so strong, so visceral,” Gold said of the crowd that night. “There was a sense of change in the air, and we almost got carried away with it.”
Yet even as the measure failed in the Senate and the security forces launched tear gas to disperse the crowds, the film manages to capture an Argentine feminist movement unabbatted and rejuvenated in its purpose.
“There were a lot of pro-choicers who were still very positive, that this is just the beginning and there will be a change in the future,” D’Cruz said.
For now, the team still hopes to raise 8,000 pounds sterling on the My Body, Their Choice Indiegogo page. So far they’re a quarter of the way there. Funds would go to professional sound and colour for the film, as well as music licencing.
“It seems like it’s something that just has to change,” D’Cruz said of abortion laws the world over. “Hopefully our little film will play some small part in spreading awareness and potentially putting pressure on making that change.”
TO HELP FUND THE FILM , VISIT https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/abortion-my-body-their-choice#/